The purpose of your cover letter is simple: it’s a brief capsule-description of you and your professional qualifications and experience.
Emphasis on the word ‘brief.’
The cover letter is not intended to be a full-blown biography – or even a detailed profile.
Keep this in mind when you are applying for a job. Human Resource departments can receive hundreds of resumes and cover letters on a daily basis. The person reading your cover letter may have as little as 20 – 30 seconds to evaluate you as a match and decide whether or not to forward it on up the chain of command or toss it into the shredder. This person will not have time to read any information that does not pertain to the position for which the sender is applying.
At this point, the prospective employer is not interested in your height, weight, eye and hair color; they could care less if you’re married, single, gay, straight or “other;” and your race, ethnicity and/or religious affiliation is of no consequence at this point. In fact, in most cases, applicants are instructed specifically not to include such personal information.
So make sure that information doesn’t make it into your cover letter or resume.
…discrimination is very difficult to prove in civil court, but it’s a potential issue that most employers would rather avoid.
The reason? Not only does such information usually have nothing to do with one’s qualifications for a given position, it is in fact illegal in many states to ask for this information – and inadvisable in others. If you were to mention in your cover letter or resume that you are a Nixian of Kryptonian ancestry and your cover letter was screened out, the employer has left him/herself open to a complaint – or even a lawsuit. Now, in most cases, such discrimination is very difficult to prove in civil court, but it’s a potential issue that most employers would rather avoid. So they’d rather receive cover letters that don’t hold any risks.
The same goes for hobbies and interests; cover letters are not the place to mention your expertise at wood carving or your detailed knowledge of caravans traveling the Silk Road in the year 1242, because the prospective employer isn’t interested in that information. The exception might be if such interests or hobbies have a connection to the job for which you are applying. For example, if you are applying for a job at a hardware store that carries a substantial selection of woodworking tools, then your skills at woodcarving might indicate a great deal of knowledge and experience in using such tools – meaning you would do very well when it comes to assisting and advising customers.
Deciding if a bit of personal information is appropriate for inclusion in your cover letter is appropriate is a judgment call; however, it’s a good rule of thumb that if you think about the fact you want to include, and can’t see how it directly applies to the job, then it’s best to leave it out of your cover letter entirely.
In the end, you are trying to keep the reader focused on your professional skills. Anything else is, at this point in the game, just fluff.
More information on writing cover letters can be found throughout this blog and website. Visit www.CoverLetterCentral.com for sample cover letters.
See all posts on cover letter